Lapid speaks with Sweden FM, renewing high-level contacts after 7 years

Ann Linde condemns terrorism and backs Israel’s security; ties had soured in 2014 after Stockholm recognized Palestinian state and its former FM censured IDF

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and Sweden's foreign minister, Ann Linde, (right). (Alexander Nemenov/Pool via AP, AP/Darko Vojinovic))
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and Sweden's foreign minister, Ann Linde, (right). (Alexander Nemenov/Pool via AP, AP/Darko Vojinovic))

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Monday that he spoke with his Swedish counterpart, marking the first such call between the nations’ top diplomats in seven years.

“This phone conversation, the first in 7 years between the foreign ministers of our countries, symbolizes the relaunching of relations at this level,” Lapid tweeted on Monday, after he spoke with Sweden’s Ann Linde last week.

“I appreciate her statement regarding Sweden’s strong and solid commitment to the security of Israel and her recognition in the course of our conversation of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,” Lapid added.

Linde had tweeted last Wednesday that the call was an “opportunity for me to wish him Shana Tova & emphasise the importance of our bilateral relationship.”

“Both of us stressed that friendship & cooperation can & must go hand with respect for each other’s convictions & differences,” she said.

The previous Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, repeatedly enraged Israel, starting with Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state shortly after she took the post in October 2014.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom speaks with the media after her meeting with her Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 16, 2016. (Flash90)

Tensions were further strained by Wallstrom’s accusations against Israel when she called the Israel Defense Forces’ killing of Palestinians carrying out stabbing and car-ramming attacks “extrajudicial killings,” and called for “thorough” investigations.

She also caused an outcry in the wake of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, when she identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the factors explaining why “there are so many people who have become radicalized” — comments Israel called “appallingly impudent.”

Linde said that, in her call with Lapid, she “condemned terrorism and expressed strong and solid commitment for the security of Israel,” adding that Sweden and the European Union are committed to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Lapid has expressed a determination to restore the Foreign Ministry to a central place in Israel’s international engagement, after former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accused of minimizing the role of the office throughout his tenure.

Lapid and Linde also discussed Israel’s participation at the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, set to take place on October 13.

“I look forward to increased cooperation with Sweden on bilateral and multilateral issues,” Lapid said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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